Curiosity always gets me to watch whatever new sci-fi/horror original that Netflix puts out, and I remember a while back we heard that they were going to increase their output of those genres. They have found great success with it in a few cases, the most notable of which is Sandra Bullock’s Bird Box, which Netflix claims 80 million households watched in its first month.
Netflix is chasing that magic with The Silence, a new monster movie based on an adjacent hook. It’s similar to both Bird Box, where you couldn’t open your eyes outside or the monsters would get you, but flat-out identical to A Quiet Place, where the monsters hunt by sound and you survive by being as silent as possible.
This feels like one of those Netflix projects that was concocted entirely by algorithm, taking the concept of megahit Bird Box and inserting Sabrina actress Kiernan Shipka as the lead alongside, oddly, Stanley Tucci and Miranda Otto.
The monsters are unique, I’ll give The Silence that. Unlike the alien predator dogs of A Quiet Place or the unseen demons of Bird Box, we have uh, flying piranha bats? I’m not sure what else to call them. The movie calls them “Vesps,” a spin on the Spanish word for wasps, and after breaking out of an ancient cave underground, they swarm the US and start devouring anyone who makes excessive sound.
It is literally impossible to avoid comparing this movie to A Quiet Place because not only do we have a monstrous enemy that uses sound to hunt, but we have a lead family where the main daughter is deaf and their knowledge of sign language helps them survive. The difference being that any sense of subtlety is lost, as at one point Kiernan Shipka literally says, “hey, we know how to live in silence!”
Look, I’m not saying that The Silence stole this idea from A Quiet Place. The Silence is actually based on a book from 2015, which predates 2018’s A Quiet Place, so if anyone stole anything from anyone, it could be the other way around, though I haven’t heard any accusations to that effect.
But The Silence is just…not nearly as good as A Quiet Place, not even close. The writing, the editing, the acting, the sound, especially the sound, is just several notches below the John Krasinski film, and it feels like one of those straight-to-DVD knockoffs from that one company that pumps out titles like Transmorphers or The Revengers to try to capitalize on popular box office trends.
The Silence is not even as good as Bird Box, and actually makes Bird Box look like…A Quiet Place by comparison of quality. Bird Box was just okay to me, but the concept was more interesting than this and Sandra Bullock elevated that film to be better than it had any right being. Here, we have no such star to take it to the next level, as much as I may like the work of several of the actors here. I can’t say I’m a huge Kiernan Shipka fan, as she didn’t do much for me as the lead here, but I haven’t seen her in Sabrina yet, so perhaps she shines more in that role.
One of the weirdest parts about this movie is that it hooked me in part because it seemed like it was going to have at least one interesting difference from A Quiet Place, as the synopsis talks about a cult the family encounters during this monster attack. The cult, it turns out, is vaguely religious and believes in cutting out their tongues in order to maintain silence, because just “not talking” isn’t extreme enough. This seems like a bit of an overreaction when it’s, uh, like four days into the apocalypse, but sure, why not.
The problem is that the cult does not show up in the movie until there are 20 minutes left. Then they don’t actually do anything dangerous to the family until there are maybe 10 minutes left. It’s like the movie ran out of interesting scenarios where everyone is just dodging Vesps (“interesting” is a stretch there), and decided “hey let’s just throw some crazy people in there.” I think the film would have been a lot better if it was just about the cult alone. The movie’s best moments actually come at the end where (mild spoilers), there’s actually a clever attack where the cult sends in a young girl posing as a lost child, but it’s revealed that she has a belt of cell phone strapped to her body that the cult calls and activates the Vesps to swarm the family’s house, and they’ve also taped phones to the windows from the outside as well so the Vesps crash through those. It’s clever, though ultimately gets ruined when we stumble upon yet another Quiet Place moment where a family member screams and gets attacked by the monsters so the children can get away.
The Silence is certainly not the worst Netflix original sci-fi/horror movie I’ve ever sat through. The worst sci-fi original I’ve seen from them is How It Ends, and the worst horror original is Open House, and The Silence isn’t as bad as either of those. But it’s not nearly as good as Bird Box, which is not nearly as good as A Quiet Place.
I doubt The Silence is going to become the next Netflix viral sensation, but I mean, I wouldn’t have predicted 80 million people were going to watch Bird Box either, so who knows. I’d probably skip it, but it’s up to you.
Netflix is scheduled to announce its first quarter results on Tuesday, April 16. The company continues to see strong growth, and now has over 139 million paying subscribers in over 190 countries along with a vast range of TV shows and movies, including original series, documentaries, and feature films. In 2018, the company’s revenues increased 35% year-over-year (y-o-y) to $15.8 billion, largely driven by growth in subscribers across both the U.S. and international streaming markets. The company’s solid international growth has come despite stiff competition from the likes of Amazon and Hulu, as well as local content providers in various markets.
Netflix saw its stock gain nearly 40% over the course of 2019. We have a $378 price estimate for Netflix’s stock, which is slightly ahead of the current market price. We have created an interactive dashboard on What Is Netflix’s Outlook For Q1? which outlines our forecasts for the upcoming quarter. You can modify our forecasts to see the impact any changes would have on the company’s earnings and valuation. In addition, you can also see more Trefis Media data here.
- In Q1, Netflix expects 8.9 million global net additions (1.6 million net adds in the U.S. and 7.3 million internationally), compared to an 8.5 million consensus estimate. The company also expects an operating margin of 8.9% in Q1.
- Netflix is also raising its prices in the U.S. and some Latin American markets. Netflix’s new pricing in the U.S. will be phased in for existing members over Q1 and Q2, and its U.S. prices for new members are increasing across the board – the Standard plan (two HD streams) is increasing from $10.99 to $12.99 per month; the Premium plan (up to four Ultra HD streams) is increasing from $13.99 to $15.99 per month; and the Basic plan (with a single non-HD stream) is increasing for the first time, from $7.99 to $8.99 per month. This will help boost the company’s average revenue per customer over the coming quarters.
- We forecast Netflix to reach 62 million subscribers in the U.S., with an average monthly fee per subscriber of just over $11, translating into $2.1 billion in domestic streaming revenues for Q1. In addition, we also estimate close to 95 million subscribers in international markets with an average monthly fee per subscriber of $8.28, translating into about $2.4 billion in international streaming revenues in the same period.
- Netflix has been growing its subscribers by leveraging its original content slate, and we expect this to continue in the near term as well. On the other hand, Netflix’s DVD business is expected to continue to lose steam, and its revenues will likely decline to just below $80 million. Overall, we expect the company to report revenues of around $4.5 billion, based on strong adoption in international markets. Furthermore, we anticipate that the total subscriber base for both international and U.S. streaming services could grow to over 157 million during the quarter.
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On the way home from a recent trip, I managed to cram in all eight episodes of Netflix’s new zombie series, Black Summer. Like so many other Netflix originals these days, it sprang out of nowhere with little fanfare, and it’s anyone’s guess whether it will be ignored completely by viewers or the next viral sensation.
My guess is the former, because it just isn’t all that good.
While I may be a Walking Dead fanboy, especially now that the show has gotten really good again as of season 9, I am certainly open to competition. Netflix itself has already made a great new zombie show in the form of The Kingdom, the Korean zombie period drama that was actually quite stunning and is returning for a second season.
Black Summer is…less impressive, and plays more like a bloated movie than a new series. I know Netflix doesn’t have to operate within the bounds of traditional formatting, but the show’s episode lengths are bizarre, with a 45 minute premiere and a 20 minute finale across the eight episodes, with 25, 30 and 40 minute episodes in between. This makes the entire thing about a 3-4 hour experience, which, if you’re a zombie die-hard you may want to check out, but if you’re anyone else, I’m not sure this is worth your time.
This is a fairly traditional outbreak story, one told in the early days of a zombie attack. I think we’re about 5 weeks out from when things got “really bad,” as referenced by the characters. We follow a handful of characters that end up intersecting with one another frequently, as the show likes to play with parallel timelines. They have an ultimate goal of reaching the fabled stadium in the center of downtown (I’m not sure what city this is, something in the southwest), where they hope to reunite with lost family members.
The zombies here are…weird. Here are the rules we’re working with:
- These are “fast zombies,” 28 Days Later style, meaning they sprint and chase you and go so fast you’ll often see them plowing through walls and windows when you think you’re safe
- Biting does in fact turn people, but we are also working with the Walking Dead rule where anyone who dies, even if they aren’t bitten, turns. And they turn instantly.
- Headshots kill them, but these zombies seem far, far more durable than most Walking Dead Combine that with their speed and even one or two is enough to ruin your entire day.
What this looks like in practice is bizarre. Given that these are fast zombies that turn instantly after death, the zombies are essentially just actors with white-out eyes and blood on their face running around screaming. There are no prosthetics here, no real monster make-up. No zombies rolling around with one arm or half melted by fire. Just a lot of crazy people screaming, which does not make for a terribly compelling threat, however dangerous they may be.
But as weird as the zombies are, it’s the editing of this show that I can’t shake as being even bizarre. The show feels like it is desperately throwing out left turns as much as it can, adding and subtracting new characters at will so in many cases, you don’t get more than 2-3 episodes to know any of them. The show does some weird things like take a character tagging along in a group that you were positive was a redshirt and then…giving him his own 40 minute episode that he spends running away from a single zombie.
Editing also results in weird time skips. Like we will have one episode where five characters spend the entire thing debating how to get out of a diner they’ve been trapped in by two zombies. And then one episode later they are executing a highly choreographed raid of a weapons cache buried inside a sex/dance club full of armed guards. I had to check to make sure I hadn’t missed an episode or two multiple times.
I do like a few things the show does. The idea of “durable zombies” is a good one, ones that eat tons of damage and bullets before going down rather than being killed with pencils and icicles like in the Walking Dead. It’s just that their presentation is all wrong. The diner episode and the heist episode were memorable, but it’s hard to get attached to these characters given how often they come and go. The only person I even recognize in this series is Jamie King, but I don’t even think she’s one of the better characters. That honor goes to Christine Lee as Sun who has to navigate all this madness without speaking English.
The show kills off so many people by the end I have no idea if this is supposed to be a one-off series or the first of a few different season. I don’t think I’m terribly interested in more, and there are just better zombie properties to compare it to, even on Netflix itself. It’s not the biggest time commitment, but I just don’t know if it’s worth getting through regardless.
Netflix’s Black Summer sure ain’t your grandpappy’s zombie-based drama.
According to its main star, Jaime King (Hart of Dixie), the show is actually a political allegory meant to mirror current events in America. King plays Rose, a mother who’s looking for her child, but also leading a band of human survivors across the post-apocalyptic wasteland of a zombified United States.
“When I read the script, I was in Europe at the time. As soon as I closed the script, I literally changed my flight and flew back to the States because I was like, ‘I am Rose,'” the actor tells me during a one-on-one phone call.
Going on to relate the harrowing story of when her son was born with a heart defect and needed immediate surgery, she explains how it helped her realize that she and Rose were of one mind:
“There was something about going through that experience where I knew, in that moment—you hear that mothers can lift up cars to save their child—that there is nothing that a mother cannot do. When I read Rose, I knew I was her. I knew that there was nothing a woman cannot do to protect their child.”
Created by Karl Schaefer (co-creator of Z Nation) and John Hyams (a director of Z Nation and The CW’s Legacies), Black Summer deals with heavy themes of loss and humanity that echo the recent headline-making stories of children being separated from their parents at America’s border with Mexico.
“When I asked [John] why he wrote [the show], he said, originally, it was a love letter to his wife,” adds King. “When he saw what was happening down there [at the border] and what was happening with the country, he was like, ‘That’s it, I’m done. I have to tell this story’ … “All of this is a metaphor and that’s what I love. It’s metaphorical, but it’s also fun and in your face and it’s also authentic and true.”
In time, it became evident that such a relevant parallel would take precedence over the actual zombies. While the world of the show becomes infested with the flesh-eating ghouls, they are more of a unique lens through which to view the politically-charged stories swirling around since the 2016 election.
“And then our scripts, there was no mention of zombies. That was never mentioned,” King says. “It was that there was this sickness and the sickness is totally and fully representative of what is happening in our country in terms of that it doesn’t matter how much you love or how much you hate … no one is immune to the separation of one another and that we’re getting infected with biases that have always been present, but that are coming up to the surface and how does each person handle something like that?”
That being said, the series still has plenty of stuff to love for fans of both zombies and the horror genre in general without things becoming too overwhelming or graphic. King compares this approach to Alfred Hitchock, who once said that it’s better to leave some stuff up to the imagination, which will conjure up imagery and explanations that are much more frightening than if they were simply put up on the screen.
“If you love horror, you’re gonna love this. If you love drama, you’re gonna love this. It’s cinematic. It’s not like this gory, horror show, it is the kind of show that when you watch it, you can’t even breathe because it’s so grounded in truth … When you do see [the gore] in your face, it’s really purposeful and so, there’s a lot of care and consideration so that we were hitting all the different notes for everybody.”
While Season 1 isn’t even available to the public yet, I couldn’t resist in asking her where she’d like a second season to go, should Black Summer be renewed by Netflix. She was more than happy to oblige in a little speculative guesswork, saying:
“If Rose makes it to her child or wherever she makes it, I would like her to explore the aftermath of what that’s like to be separated from the person that you love so much. I would like to explore what it is that I’ve seen when mothers go back to their children at the border and their child doesn’t know who they are. I would like to explore the actual real aftermath of what happens when the people in power oppress and strip you of your humanity and the strength that you come to in realizing that you don’t need them in the first place because someone will have your back if you find that person. But I would just like to explore the complexities of that if she reaches her.”
Netflix was, at least for King, the inevitable choice for how the series was meant to be produced and distributed.
“I love genre and most importantly I just love cinema and the way that [the show] was shot, we break so many rules that most shows aren’t allowed to do, but that’s the beautiful thing about Netflix,” she says. “When they hire you for your voice, you get to do your voice and they let you just run and be free, which is why every artist wants to work with them.”
As for those of you watching at home, Jaime hopes that you’ll take their time with the show, which is obviously debuting on the Internet’s most “bingeable” site. The temptation is pretty great, but if you do zoom through all of Season 1, don’t worry—there’s still plenty of rewatch value.
“I think people should linger on it, because the way that we shot it, it’s so cinematic and we never jump backwards in time and we never jump forwards in time. We shot it like a play … What I hope is that the audience watches it however they prefer—if they binge it, then they go back and watch it episode-by-episode so that they can see each thing that’s woven within.”
Season 1 of Black Summer arrives on Netflix tomorrow, April 11.